Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022
Teaching DLLs during COVID-19: Teaching modality affects instructional practices, language use, and caregiver engagement.
Authors: Bethany Keffala, Carol Scheffner Hammer, Christine Vail, Katya Mehta, Julie C. Smith, Barbara A. Wasik
The COVID-19 pandemic forced significant changes to education practices to protect educators, students, and families. Though remote instruction and modified in-person teaching methodologies pose challenges to all students and families, dual language learners (DLLs) experience disproportionately negative effects (Lazarín, 2020). COVID-19 has widened the equity gap, particularly for DLLs from low-income backgrounds, who experience communication barriers between home and school, less access to technology required for remote learning, and greater financial instability (UNICEF, 2020). However, it is unknown how teachers have adapted to support DLLs’ education and family engagement, or how modified education practices affect teacher-DLL and teacher-caregiver relationships. This study aimed to characterize impacts of the pandemic on preschool teachers who teach DLLs. Specifically, we investigated relationships between teaching modality and teachers’ instructional practices, language use, perceptions of DLLs’ learning/development, and relationships with DLLs and caregivers during COVID.
- Participants were 31 preschool teachers (30 female; ages: 21-55 years, m=37) from New York metropolitan area programs, including 20 lead, eight assistant, and three coverage teachers. At least 20% of teachers’ students were DLLs. All teachers were fluent in English. Nineteen also spoke other languages; 13 spoke the home language(s) of their DLL students.
- Preliminary results suggest that teaching modality affected the instructional activities teachers engaged in, teachers’ relationships with DLLs and caregivers, and use of DLLs’ home language(s). Particularly, remote-only teachers used DLLs’ home languages more during instruction compared to classroom teachers. Interview analyses suggest this trend may arise in part from cooperation between teachers and caregivers who facilitated DLLs’ engagement with remote learning.
In winter of the 2020-21 school year, teachers completed a survey (35 multiple choice/answer questions) that gathered information about their demographic characteristics, number of DLL students and home languages, teaching modality (classroom-only; remote-only; classroom+remote), instructional practices, and language use. Also, interviewers conducted a semi-structured interview with teachers, including 28 pre-planned questions designed to collect detailed information about teachers’ instructional practices, family engagement, relationships, and perceptions regarding DLLs’ learning/development during the pandemic.
Survey analyses explored how often teachers 1) engaged in specific instructional activities (e.g. book-reading, small groups, etc.) and 2) used DLLs’ home language(s) during instruction, as well as relations between these variables and teaching modality. Thematic analysis of interviews further explored teachers’ perceptions and experiences. We considered intersections between teaching modality and emergent patterns in teachers’ instructional practices, family engagement, relationships, and perceptions about DLLs’ learning/development.
Innovation, Implications. To our knowledge, this study is the first to examine the pandemic’s impacts on preschool teachers who teach high proportions of DLLs. Our findings suggest a need for increased support of teachers’ home language use during instruction, and of teachers’ engagement of DLLs’ families.
- What challenges/opportunities have teachers who teach DLLs experienced during the pandemic?
- What challenges/opportunities have DLLs and families experienced with respect to education during the pandemic?
- Considering strategies that emerged during COVID, what could educators continue to incorporate/build upon to work toward equity for DLLs and families?
Lazarín, M. (2020, June). COVID-19 spotlights the inequities facing English learning students, as nonprofit organizations seek to mitigate challenges. Migration Policy Institute. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/covid-19-inequities-english-learner-students
UNICEF (2020, March). COVID-19 and children. https://data.unicef.org/covid-19-and-children/